Nov 20, 2015

Snowpocalypse 2105

Monday was a really bad for probably everyone in the town in which I live.  Because on Monday we had a fairly decent SNOWPOCALYPSE.  And it was not pleasant.

Monday was the day that Opie was supposed to get braces.  His first set of braces.  Because he's lucky enough to need them twice (and while we're on the subject, teeth are ridiculously expensive.  If you're planning on having a lot of children and you have small mouth genes, just DON'T DO IT, the orthodontics bills are killer).

I had worked out my day perfectly.  The Jr High gets out early on Mondays so I had scheduled Opie's appointment for when Two Bits would be home to watch Spike.  Because being baby free for an hour long orthodontics appointment sounds pretty heavenly.  However the skies were being the opposite of heavenly.....if hell can come in frozen form.

It snowed.  And snowed.   SO MUCH SNOW.

I went outside an hour and a half before I needed to pick up Two Bits and Opie and tried to clean off the driveway a little.  There was over a foot of heavy snow out there.  I spent 20 minutes freezing all of my parts off while Spike screamed (alone) inside, and it didn't really make any difference because the snow had recovered every dent I made.  So I gave up and hoped our minivan could power through it all.

This wasn't even all of it, because at this point it was still falling.

It just kept snowing.

I left the house 45 minutes early because I was afraid it would take longer to get to the schools.  I bundled up Spike and he thankfully fell asleep in his carseat, because the next hour was pure torture.

For the record, our minivan CANNOT power it's way through deep snow.  In case you were naive enough to think it I did.

Also, here's some handy information - if you run out of salt, using potting soil and charcoal briquettes DO NOT work the same.

After trying to dig myself out for an hour my next door neighbor came out and tried to help.  Then I slid off the edge of the driveway into an area between our driveways that has gravel and we knew I was doomed.  So she tried to get her car out of her driveway so she could help me get my kids.  But then her car got stuck.

And it just kept snowing.

And then severe desperation kicked in.

The Jr High is about a mile from our house, and Two Bits was expecting me with no other way home.  So I got out our wrap and attached Spike to my chest.  I threw my coat on backwards to keep him warm and started walking.

In over a foot of snow.

In my jeans and boots that really weren't meant to ever see snow in their lives.

And it just kept snowing.


Luckily I had only gotten to the end of the block when a teenager we go to church with offered me a ride in his truck.  Because it was going to take me a LOOOOOOOOOONG time to go that mile.  And then back.

After that I made Husband come home early from work.  And between him, our next door neighbor, the 12 year old boy across the street, me, and another hour we managed to get both vehicles unstuck and back in the garages.  Then Husband stayed outside shoveling the rest of our driveway and pushing every car that attempted to go down the street.

That day I know of at least 5 cars, a delivery truck, and a school bus that managed to get stuck in our neighborhood.  Trees and bushes (including two of ours) were breaking and falling from all the extra weight.  Then every cell phone and landline in town went out.  And the internet went down everywhere.  And I wondered if we should start boiling water or pulling out our oil lanterns.

Every time the internet goes down I feel like the world is ending, and this time it felt so much more real.  Because, you know, SNOWPOCALYPSE.

That's our tree - - it USED to stand upright without problems.

However the world didn't actually end.  And it didn't even snow much other than in our little town.  And we woke up to phone and internet service the next morning.  And everyone was expected to resume life as usual even though there were still mountains of snow outside and the mild cold I had been sporting had turned into razor blades in my throat and a monkey doing calisthenics in my cranium.  But we did it anyway - we resumed.

But we did have to reschedule that orthodontist appointment.  I don't think Opie minded.

Nov 19, 2015


I got the latest version of one of my favorite drawing programs on my Surface today and played.  It had been so long since I had used this particular program that I had forgotten how much fun it is.  It's perfect for anyone who likes to doodle.  And I'm a really big fan of doodling.  In fact, I doodled this for Illustration Friday.  This week's theme is "animal".  

Oct 21, 2015


Everyone once in awhile I realize that I'm not really trying very hard to improve my artistic abilities.  I just settle into my current jobs and don't push myself.  But then I kick myself and get all gung ho about the ways that I want to practice and improve.  And shortly after that I poop out on myself until the realization hits again.  But for RIGHT THIS SECOND, I'm working on it.

I drew this for Illustration Friday - this week's theme is "stuffed".

I forced myself to draw the whole thing on my Surface - which my mom gave me over a year ago for the specific purpose of drawing.  I've been lazy and have gotten so used to drawing with my mouse at my desktop that it felt weird drawing on a screen again.  But the goal is to get good at both.  And then I'll start drawing with my toes and see how that goes.  Because I'm all about realistic goals here.

Oct 2, 2015

The Most Beautiful Velvet Cape

When my Grandma Millie was a little girl she was kind of spoiled.  She was the surprise baby at the end and all her siblings were quite a bit older than her, kind of like our little spoiled Spike.  Except her family called her "Toots".

Because of the age gap she played on her own a lot as a young kid.  She had cool toys like a wicker doll stroller and a play washing machine.  And one Christmas, her brother gave her a beautiful "grown up girl" doll.  

My grandma lived with her parents on a sheep ranch.  They sold the wool to make long underwear for the soldiers during World War II.  The ranch was pretty far away from town, and even the "country school" was 15 miles away.  Most of the other kids in the area would live with families closer to the school, but my great grandparents didn't want to be away from their little Toots so they rented a small house near the school for her and my great grandmother to stay during the week.

One of the girls staying at the house next door had a pretty "grown up doll" too.  They would play dolls together almost every day after school.  Except the girl next door's doll had a fancy velvet cape.  And my grandma wanted her doll to have a fancy cape too.  This was during a world war, and her family lived on a modest budget, so it's not like velvet was just....around.  But she was just a little seven year old girl who really really wanted a doll cape.

And being the well-loved child that she was, she got that cape.

Somehow my great grandmother found a scrap of velvet to make a fancy doll cape just to please her Toots.  My grandma isn't sure how she managed to do it, but she was thrilled to have a doll cape just like her friend.

And to this day, whenever my grandma sees a cape, or a scrap of velvet, she remembers how the velvet doll cape her mom made her was the most beautiful thing she has ever seen.

So, the moral of this story is: You can give your age gap babies really fun nicknames and then spoil them as much as you want, and they'll turn out to be pretty amazing anyway.

This story is about my grandma Mildred (Allen) Ray.  I hope to share more family history stories on a regular basis....but since I have a hard time even posting ANYTHING regularly, don't hold your breath.

Sep 25, 2015

The Moment

The other day a moment from my past popped into my head.  It wasn't an especially pivotal moment or anything, but the impact is still being felt.

It happened quite a few years ago.  We had lived in an apartment and gotten to know some of the other church members in the same complex.  I didn't get to know anyone really well -I'm slow at making friends- but you know, I knew who they were and had a general sense of their character and whatever.  And then we moved, and I only kept in minimal contact with a couple of the people I knew.

Fast forward a couple of years.

Opie was about 4 years old and I had no idea what to do with him.  He was especially Dr Jekyl/Mr Hyde-ish back then.  He could be the sweetest, most lovable, chubby cheeked cherub and then switch to crazed, destructo, demon child in a fraction of a second for very little cause.  It was also when everyone was very young - 4 kids ages 1-5 young - which just made things harder.

For those who don't know the church we go helps people in lots of different ways, such as offering free counseling to those who need it.  Like, real, professional, actual psychologist, counseling.  Because it can be overwhelmingly expensive, and we had reached that point.

This is when IT happened.

I had to fill out paperwork in a church office dedicated to people who are applying for counseling.  It was quite a bit of paperwork, and as I sat there I noticed that across the room another woman was also filling out counseling paperwork.  And this woman used to go to church with us when we lived in the apartment.  And we knew each other well enough to recognize each other.

Except that we didn't.

We both just ducked our heads and kept filling out paperwork, pretending there was no one else in the room.

And that was it.  THE MOMENT.

It doesn't seem like a huge moment at all.  But here's the thing - I remember thinking, "I should go say hi and see if she's doing ok, which she obviously isn't seeing as she's seeking professional counseling..."   But I was too embarrassed and afraid.  I mean, what do you say to someone in a situation like that?  I would imagine the conversation like this:

Me: Hey, I haven't seen you in awhile.  So I see you're failing at adulthood just as much as me.  High five!!

Her: Hi!  Oh yes, I am very much crapping out on this "being a grown up" thing and it's amazing!

Me: So, what are you here for?

Her: Marriage is insanely tricky, and right now I could flush all my husband's clothes down a giant pee-soaked toilet!  You?

Me: That sounds familiar, but I'm actually here because I have no idea how to parent my own child and sometimes I fantasize about running away to a remote island where everyone's sterile!

Her: Oh yes, I've had that one.  Well it's good catching up - I need to go yell at everyone in my house now.

Me: Me too, right after I grab dinner at Burger King for the third time this week.  Bye!

Conversations rarely go that way.

I've found that talking about real problems makes people uncomfortable.

Have you ever noticed that when you do bring up a sincere problem in a conversation 90% of the time the other person immediately jumps to generalized statements of praise?  Like if I had said, "My child is out of control and I think God made a mistake giving him to me" (which was a thought I had often at that stage of Opie's life), first of all I probably would've horrified whoever I was talking to, but they'd hide it and say something like, "But you're doing so great with him!  And all your other kids are so well behaved!  And your frizzy ponytail goes so well with your twitching eyelid!  And wow, you are just, SO GREAT!  But I need to go now, bye!"  And I'd be left standing there feeling worse about my problem.

Aside from a handful of my friends, most of my conversations are void anything of real substance.  But what if they weren't?  What if we could let go of all the embarrassment and all the judging and just SAY REAL STUFF and have people say REAL STUFF back?   Even people we don't know that well?

Not that I think all conversations should be a complain-o-thon because yikes, but if you're having a bad day and the clerk at the grocery store says, "How are you today?"  You could say "It's not my best day" instead of the perfunctory, "I'm fine, how are you?"  And then maybe you could even have a real conversation while they ring up your purchase of donut holes and Diet Coke.

Wouldn't it be better if we all felt safe to BE REAL?

Mostly though, I just want to go back in time to THE MOMENT and tell that woman hi.  And tell her that it's ok to struggle with life.  Because adulting is the hardest.  And neither one of us should have been embarrassed to admit that, when it makes life easier and better when you know you're not the only one who has reached the point of filling out paperwork for professional counseling.  And I think I needed to hear it that day too.

Jul 7, 2015

I'm just Scared and Stupid

Once upon a time, early July 2003, I was terrified.  I had just had my first baby.  My mom was there to help me, but then something horrible happened.


My family lived far away.  Like 18 hours in a car away.  Which felt much farther as I stood by the window, watching my mom drive away, while I clutched my newborn infant with the realization that I had no idea what I was doing with this human being I created.

I don't think I had ever truly been that terrified before or since.

Until now.

Something new and extremely daunting now sits in my path.  It's like this giant monster that is just sitting there, blocking the entire path, and needs to be dealt with because there's no way around it. And I have no idea what to do.

This thing is called "parenting a preteen".


I look into the gorgeous face of my amazing daughter who just turned 12 and I think, "I'm going to mess this up so much.  But I don't mean to.  I'm just scared.  And stupid.  So stupid.  And I have no idea how to parent you.  And I'm sorry.  I'm so so so very sorry."

This preteen parenting thing is hard.

First of all, I don't have dealing-with-preteen-emotional-outburst skills.  I mean, I understand the physiology behind the emotional outburst.  Crazy hormonal changes make for crazy emotional outbursts.  That part makes sense.  I get it.  But I'm clueless on what to do about them.

I'm not really one of those sweet "come cry on my shoulder" kind of people.  I'm more of a "suck it up, you're going to be fine" kind of person.  This does not go well with preteen emotional outbursts.  However, I'm not exactly sure what kind of strategy would actually work, since these outbursts are completely lacking any logical reasoning.  But I still feel bad - sorry for not dealing well with your confusing emotions my beautiful daughter.

I also get really awkward.  I am naturally awkward anyway.  So introducing awkward topics makes me doubly awkward.  There's really no word that can describe the awkward that I become.  It's beyond the bounds of human speech.

But we talk about awkward topics a lot.  Because I want my kids to know that they can talk to me about everything.  And the next few years are going to contain SO MUCH AWKWARD.  So I'm sorry, amazing daughter, that I'm a giant weirdo who talks a lot and hardly ever says the right things.

I also expect a lot.  Because I don't know if  I've made it clear or not, but my daughter is amazing.  She is gorgeous on the outside and even more beautiful and talented and smart and hilarious and fun on the inside.  But sometimes I don't feel like that gets paraded around enough.  Because I want the entire world to know all about how insanely awesome she is. But she's shy about it.  So I push.

Sometimes I push a lot.  Sometimes it's too much.

I'm sorry I push you too much my talented girl.

Having a first child is the hardest.  Because no matter what stage they're in, everything is new for everyone.  And parents are idiots.  And they make mistakes.  And even though they try really hard, they will continue to be idiots and make mistakes.  And most of them will be made with the oldest child, because, you know, that whole "everything is new" thing.  Sorry my oldest child.

This new challenge is so overwhelmingly scary that it will be pretty miraculous if we make it through the preteen years with all our limbs and sanity intact.  

And if we do there's just more scarier daunting-ier monster-sized things in my future path.  Like the parenting of four more preteens.  And the fact that they will eventually become TEENAGERS.

And teenage parenting is a whole other  EXTREMELY TERRIFYING beast that I am going to continue to deny until it's staring me in the face (at which time I may be found rocking myself in a dark corner, in the fetal position, while repeating phrases like "he used to love me" and "where did my sweet baby go?"  and "HELP ME!").

But for now  there are some things that I want my glorious preteen daughter to know:  I love you so much more than I can ever express.  You amaze me every day just by being you.  I'm sorry I'm not a better parent and that I'm scared and stupid, but somehow we made it through that first terrifying time so hopefully we'll make it through this too.

P.S. Please don't ever become a teenager.

Jul 2, 2015

The Perks of Age Gaps

I feel like since I stopped blogging I've become much less articulate.  And my vocabulary has shrunk down to just "really" "awesome" and "whoa".  Except I like to spell it "woah", because in my head it looks better.

I don't know if you know this, but I had another baby.  Seven and a half months ago.  And he's incredibly awesome.  Really.  (See?  I need new adjectives.)

Here's a picture of my new baby.  We call him Spike.

(If anyone is looking for a great photographer in Utah County - I can refer you to ours.)

For 3 more days my kids will be the ages: 11, 10, 8, 7, and 7 months.  But then the old one turns 12 and those first four sound much less dramatic.  There's a pretty huge gap between the two youngest though, and I have to tell you - IT IS THE BEST THING IN THE WORLD. 

I say that now, because it's true.  For now.  I might change my mind later.  But here are some of the major perks of having a bunch of kids, then waiting 6 1/2 years and having another one:

1- Built in entertainment.  Back in the day I had to pee with the door open.  Or stash the current baby safely in a bouncy chair in the bathroom with me to protect them from the current toddler/preschooler.  These days I just say "I need to use the bathroom, who wants to play with the baby?"  And I immediately have 4 happy volunteers.  And I can even stay in the bathroom and play games on my phone and no one even cares.

2- Built in babysitters.  This kind of goes along with that first thing, except it's better.  My oldest is just reaching an age where she can babysit, but no one else knows yet.  And she doesn't have a life yet either.  So guess who can run to the grocery store sans baby whenever they want?  ME.  Granted, I stress and worry about things at home the whole time, but I still get to do it.  So, yeah.

3- It's like having your first baby all over again except you're not stupid this time.  It seems like a really long time ago that my other kids were babies so it all feels new.  But it's not new.  So I actually know what I'm doing.  And while I get to re-experience all the amazingly wonderful joys of what it's like to have and hold and love a baby, I'm not stressed out about "doing things wrong" or "the baby just exploded like a chubby little poop bomb and I have no idea what to do" like I was when I actually had my first baby.  (Throwing a fully clothed, poop covered baby in the tub and hosing them down is a skill that just sticks with you, even if you thought you forgot about all that stuff.)

4- Babies are awesome.  It doesn't really matter WHEN you have them, they just are.  And Spike is kind of a stellar baby.  He's easy going, sleeps well, laughs at my jokes.  All the good stuff.  Not to mention, he's stinking adorable.  You saw that picture, right?  ADORABLE.

At this point, I would totally wait another six and a half years and have another baby.  I mean, we won't be doing that, but I would if I could.  Because it's just that really awesome woah.